Let me preface this post by saying that I have an open mind on the subject of complementary and alternative medicine. However, I am not as well-versed in it as I would like. After all, I was educated within the Western medical tradition …


… which in my estimation means I’d require another two to four years of dedicated training before I’d feel comfortable offering myself up as an alternative provider. And given that I’d prefer to study a wide variety of other Western approaches before embarking on the study of non-traditional modalities, I don’t see myself getting there … ever.


Does that make me a "bad" veterinarian? Some of you might think so. But here’s where I may redeem myself: If you’re not  into Western medicine and have decided you prefer a veterinarian who really knows his or her way around herbs and acupuncture needles, I do know how to refer you to a good one. Problem solved.


Sometimes, however, pet owners find themselves 'twixt two worlds: They want to "do no harm" when it comes to what ails their pets … but they also crave a well tested, proven approach, á la Western medicine (Not that some natural remedies aren't well tested). Yet for some diseases, the halfway zone between one way and the other can find some pet owners mired in a morass of indecision — or worse, courting a poor outcome whichever direction they turn. I call that the "natural approach black hole."


(OK, so I used to call it the "holistic black hole," which sounds better but which doesn’t address the extent of the problem or do justice to holistic medicine. A quandary for sure, hence the name change.)


So it was with Rooster. Rooster was a big black cat with a great owner I’d known for ten years. We’d been trucking along for all this time, during which time I’d seen Rooster through injuries, simple illnesses, and one major dental disaster. He and his owner had soldiered through it all. But when Rooster lost two pounds over as many months and hyperthyroidism was diagnosed, his owner suddenly rejected all traditional approaches in favor of an "as-seen-on-the-Web" herbal concoction.


"He’s too old for strong pills or crazy radioactive injections," he’d proffered by way of explanation. "And this herbal approach promises equivalent effectiveness."


OK, so here’s one trick I’ve learned that helps me steer clear of the black hole: Promises in service of a sale are a scary prospect indeed. And anything that sounds too good to be true usually is.


So was I able to effectively pass along this simple bit of wisdom to my client? I did try. But when I was roundly rejected I offered this final pearl: It’s tough to know whether what you’re getting online is truly safe and effective. So if you’d like to try an herbal approach, please let me introduce you to a veterinarian who specializes in these matters, Rooster deserves nothing less.


Sold. He made an appointment immediately.


And guess what? Next thing I know, Rooster’s getting a radioactive iodide treatment over at the specialist’s place. Because sometimes it takes two veterinarians to keep that black hole at bay. Yes, even "holistic" veterinarians sometimes recommend Western approaches. After all, the two ways are not mutually exclusive of each other. Indeed, slavish adherence to any one path is usually how we get ourselves into trouble.



Image: Lilahpops / Flickr